Nate’s Great Eight – #5 Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends

While I lack the innate musical abilities of, well, everyone in my family as well as Mae, I have a profound appreciation for music. I have no scriptural reference to back me up on this, call it a hunch, but I feel like music is more closely linked to the language of God than any we know. The power and the meaning that is embedded into the rhythm, tempo, and tonality enhances the meaning of words and can often communicate more and more quickly. So the Great Eight would not be complete with out a musical review.

I have been undergoing something of a subtle and minor shift in my musical preferences, as people are prone to do I suppose. That is evident in how I have been listening to far more “alternative rock” and less “Reggae.” Now don’t get me wrong, I still love a good classic reggae beat and socially conscious lyric, but I have been far more focused on probably two bands more so than the others, Coldplay and The Killers, both of whom put out great albums this year. So for this post I wanted to talk about my thoughts about the genius album by Coldplay “Viva La Vide or Death and His Friends.”

Overall Impressions:

The album runs the gambit of emotions in human experience, it audibly captures the ranges of human experiences.  The album has songs of

Life in Technicolor -This intro is something of a tease, as you listen to it build, you are prepared to hear Chris launch into a life-affirming ballad, but it stops just short.  But it works, it draws you into the rest of the album, like any good artist, you leave them always wanting more.  By the way, if you read to the end you will get the treat, ever so delayed.

Cemeteries of London – This song strikes you with its tone, it almost seems out of place, but like most of the other tunes, first impressions rarely leave you with the real essence of what is to come.  This song is solid, but not spectacular.  Probably only appealing to real Coldplay fans,  as it lacks the hooks and melodies of some of their most famous work.  But it speaks to the spiritual struggle that is omnipresent on the album as shown in the lyrics “God is in the houses, and God is in my head, and all the cemeteries of London.  I see God in my garden, but I don’t know what he said, because my heart wasn’t open, not open.”

Lost! – The song is an ode to searching and longing.  I have heard some try to claim that this is Coldplay doing hip-hop and I suppose there is something to the rhythm that may suggest it, but if it is true it is likely only an influence rather than an experiment.  This album is hardly a stylistic laboratory, but rather a rock odyssey.

42 – This song may be the most melancholy of the lot.  Chris Martin is in his element with wistful wailing and pleading.  The production here is solid and like many songs on the album breaks into a second phase.  Creating a song within a song.  But what would you expect from an album titled Viva La Vida (Long Live Life) or Death and All His Friends.  This album is largely about juxtaposition and contrast.  I love the line “Time is so short, there must be something more.  You thought you might be a ghost, you didn’t get to heaven, but you made it close.”

Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love – The song quickly moves into an auditory sprint and you feel yourself driving and pushing.  Although lyrically the song is possibly more questioning and speculative  than the melody may suggest.  The interesting thing is that the music lifts you with the hope and carries an unworldly quality to it.  Almost as if you are above the sense of questioning and worry and you know it will get better.  I can’t quite pick the right word, but it is almost angelic, just not in the sense of the “hallelujahs chorus” kind of angelic!

Yes – The song begins with a very Beatle’s-esque string intro and slowly ebbs into its own unique blend of instruments and sounds.  Chris Martin makes it work even though he is singing probably an octave lower than we are  used to hearing him.  Rather than the trademark sing-for-the-rafters approach Chris takes into one of the darker places on the album, here he seems conflicted, tempted, and almost ready to give in.  This is one of the longer songs on the album and is just over 7 minutes, but is really two songs.  The second half of the song is almost like divine intervention into the fog of the first half.  Chris is back into the falsetto he is so known for and as only Coldplay can seem to do, they take the distortion and feedback of the electric instruments and spiral it into an angelic, ethereal experience.   This song is an interesting juxtaposition of sound and manages to redirect at just the right moment.  It is almost as if you are there at his moment of abandoning himself to the moment and then a brilliant intervention flashes  and something is calling to him, a memory maybe, but something higher, something more important.  This song is great example of how Coldplay paints pictures with their sounds.  Not as catchy as their other tunes, but rather … contemplative.

Viva la Vida – Again, another string intro, but this one is brighter in tone and combined with the pulsing rhythms of the percussion it brings the energy and melody that has made it a mainstream hit.  Again the essence is life affirming, effervescent, and inspiring.  When the album is listened to in succession it is almost as if he is redeemed and glorying in the moment as he is free from the moment in “Yes.”   This song combines choral backdrops, incredibly catchy lyrics, and you pretty much want to belt out along with Chris.

Violet Hill – Probably one of the edgier tones on the album, which is likely to explain why I always first read it as Violent Hill instead.  This song seethes of the emotion of a relationship in limbo.  “If you love me won’t you let me know” he sings.  The band follows with a throbbing that just makes me think of the heart is a desperate plea.  Their is almost an Oasis-flavor to this song and I almost expect to hear a Gallagher snarling out the lines “If you loved me, why’d you let me go?”  The song ends with him sweetly coaxing his love, “If you love me won’t you let me know, If you love me won’t you let me know?”

Strawberry Swing – For me this song is the catchiest and probably my favorite.  There is a fun and sparkling melody and this song really brings all the strengths of this album together.  This is Coldplay in its sweet spot.  The mood is bright, the spirit is lively and is captured in the line “It is such, it is such a perfect day!”  This is the song that makes you want to grab your sweethearts hand and just be in the moment.  And just like a perfect day it fades away all to quickly, but better for having been there.

Death and All His Friends – A beautiful, clean and solitary piano lead in enters the oddest of titled songs on the album.  Not nearly as morbid as the title may sound, in fact the song just may be the anthemic crescendo to the year’s and possibly the decades greatest album.  The musical odyssey that began with the sensory tickling of “Life in Technicolor” comes to the heights Chris Martin and company yearning and then back to the now familiar intro with Chris adding the lyrics “And in the end, We lie awake and dream of making our escape.”  Just beautiful.

Lost? – This is just like Lost!, but stripped down to a piano accompaniment and truly plays like a question not a declaration.

Lovers in Japan (Acoustic Version) – Again, another version, but brought to its melodic purity without the electronic distortions of the electronic instruments.  The following lyrics capture the essence and power in the music:

“They are turning my head out,To see what I’m all about.

Keeping my head down, to see what it feels like now.

But I have no doubt, that one day the sun will come out.”

As I was preparing for this post, I found that Coldplay has in fact put lyrics to Life in Technicolor and I am convinced that this album is the “Joshua Tree” for another generation.  The video below shows the mastery and comedy and range of the greatest band in the world.

Post script – Since this post is so long, I may extend it to another topic on another day.  I wanted to talk a little about the Killer’s album too.

Published in: on 1 March 2009 at 11:00 pm  Comments (3)  

Nate’s Great Eight on hold

Due to the move I am pushing the pause button on my Great 8 list. No one’s complained yet, so I doubt it is missed much! I’ll get back to it once we settle.

Published in: on 19 February 2009 at 9:55 pm  Comments (5)  

Nate’s Great Eight – #6 Am I a Mac or a PC?

Picture courtesy of

Picture courtesy of

So my current PC is running on its fifth year of life and is starting to exhibit signs of its age.  For one, performance is suffering terribly and now I am starting to get concerned about my hard drives.  I have started backing my stuff up more vigilantly than I have in the past.   So now the question is, do I build me another PC or do we move the Mac platform?

While I still consider myself a novice when it comes to PC building, it was a lot of fun to build my computer.  Since I work primarily with information and people, it was nice to do some something that was tangible and that I could point at and say, “I did that!”  As I started to consider getting a new PC I had a flutter of excitement at the challenge of building a new PC.  Now of course it is increasingly more difficult to live in a non-Vista world and the specter of going to Vista really prevented me from pulling the trigger at NewEgg (the finest online pc-related commercial website I have used).

I am pretty convinced that the Mac is the superior technology and has much better engineering behind it, not to mention the genius of their marketing.  They continue to stick it to PC’s in nearly every arena and it is beginning to show in the marketplace.  I am pretty impressed by their Operating System and think that they are pretty reliable on the hardware side as well.  But, I am having a difficult time leaving the “matrix.”  For those of you who have seen the Keanu Reeve’s movie The Matrix (on TNT edited of course!) you might recall the scene where Joe Pantoliano is conspiring to betray the rebels and is eating a steak dinner with an “agent” and he basically wants to forget that the real world (one run by computers and enslaves humans for energy) is in fact real, but rather prefers to have his memory wiped and exist in the “virtual” reality driven by the computers.  The hardships of reality were less preferable to the ease and blissful ignorance of being in the matrix.  This is the dilemma I have been facing.  Do I leave the “Matrix” in order to get the truly superior product, but one with limited applications and unfamiliar interface?  Or do I acquiese to the “Matrix” and live a life of CTRL-ALT-DELETE and the blue-screen-of-death?

Microsoft Sales Reps

Microsoft Sales Reps

Published in: on 7 February 2009 at 9:59 am  Comments (1)  

Nate’s Great Eight – #7 BYU Football and Changes

So, really as long as I can remember I have been pretty obsessed with BYU sports, primarily football.   Well, I like to think that obsessed is too strong of a  word, but others might disagree.  I am finding that my feelings are morphing, not necessarily in loyalty, but rather the significance of BYU and sports in general are playing in my life.

I know that there are others who can empathize with the visceral and real pain that comes with watching a BYU loss, especially to the filthy yewts.  There are probably more that can’t.  I wish I could get back all the melancholy weekends following a Cougar shortcoming.  While not completely devoid of  disappointment and frustration, I can say that this year I recognized that I no longer felt dejected all weekend long.  I thought this especially curious given the manner and opponents in which the Y lost their three games this year.

I have been wondering why.  One explanation is that I am “maturing” or some rot like that.  I am not sure that one applies!  I do however, think there is limited shelf space on the emotional landscape and with real estate so scarce, it simply means that you better invest your psychological nest egg a little more carefully.

This has been a process over time, but I think my consciousness of this shifting has finally begun to surface.  It started when I started to really question why I read the “comments”  following newspaper articles and angsting over what some nameless moron was spouting off behind the cowardly camouflage of anonymity.  I really began to examine why I felt compelled to; one, read the comment, and then to respond.  I mean really, who has ever changed their opinion reading a message board like that.  It is sort of like the kind of negotiations I imagine would occur if Ted Nugent and the President of PETA sat in cement bunkers on either side of the country shouting at the top of their lungs; both deeply set in their perspective and world view and not really interested in listening.  At the end of the day it seemed really lame.

Another development that has led me to this point is my increasing disdain for the intrusion into the personal lives of the athletes.  The double edged dagger of the modern media is an increasing insistence into revealing the most personal elements in a persons life.  When it comes to BYU athletes, I do not feel inclined or comfortable dealing with extremely sacred and private aspects of the athletes lives.  I can’t stand discussions about their decisions to serve missions or worse yet, their honor code status.  I am sick of the zealots who get involved in a persons spiritual struggle in any other capacity than to privately lift or assist.  In weaker moments I wish that these zealots had their own personal struggles published for the world to criticize or mock.  For all of the admirable and desirable features of BYU and organized religion in general, one of its most terrestrial by-products are the hypocrites and fanatics (how ironic is it that fan is eytmologically derived from fanatic) who feel compelled to get involved.  Now while a do feel there are situations that need to be dealt with even if the individual doesn’t come forward on their own, but I  think we have lost sight of an important Christian principle highlighted in the following versus of scripture (Luke 5:24-32):

” 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to aforgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, aglorifying God.

26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

27 ¶ And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named aLevi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.

28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

32 I came not to call the righteous, but asinners to repentance.” (Bold text added)
I really agree with the article written by Gordon Monson from the Salt Lake Tribune on a similar topic.  In the end, it embarasses me as a both a person and a member of the church to see this play out in the media.  I am not embarrassed that there are people at BYU who drink (or fill in the blank with a sin).  I am embarrassed that we feel compelled to discuss their struggles in public.
And lastly I feel tired of the sinister and divisive relationship between many BYU and Utah fans.  I don’t know if it is become more prevalent or that I am just more sensitive to it, but I find it less palatable.  I can not say that I have not been guilty of going to far in my feelings for this rivalry.  Something strange happened this year.  It started with the strange convergence of two really strong seasons by the respective schools and the subsequent hype and my introduction to Facebook (see Nate’s Great Eight #8).  I found myself really at odds with some people whom I had not spoken to in over 15 years.  It was a great departure from the friendly banter that I am more inclined to participate in.  It all seemed non sequitur to me.
However, lest you think that I am somehow no longer a fan and am checking my Cougar Fan Card at the door.  Fear not.  I am still a big fan and I am already pining for the 2009 season.  I am stressing about the departure of Collie, Reed, Feinga, Reynolds, Oswald, Vakapuna and others.  I am wondering if McKay Jacobsen will be able to get his legs back.  I worry that the O-Line will be thrown to the fire like Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego against next year’s National Champions, the Okalahoma Sooners.  I wonder if the defense will turn around and be better prepared.  I wonder if Bronco can pull another gear out of his hat and catch back up with Utah and TCU.  Here is a list of my favorite memories for the 2008 season:
  • Absolutely throttling UCLA
  • Watching Collie’s brilliance
  • Beating Wyoming again
  • Seing the Utes beat Alabama (choke, sob, sob, yes I said it)
  • The first half of the USU game
And my not so favorite moments:
  • Fourth quarter against Utah
  • First quarter against TCU
  • Second half of the USU game
  • Vegas bowl

So while my fan-ness is changing, it is thoroughly intact.  After all I still lull my kids to bed at night to the sweet dulcetones of “Rise and Shout.”

Published in: on 31 January 2009 at 12:54 pm  Comments (5)  
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